Today’s Practice Tip: How to Pay for Another Set of Hands

Today’s Practice Tip: How to Pay for Another Set of Hands

How to Pay for Another Set of Hands

Why you can’t afford NOT to hire

When I was first hired in the boutique law firm I’ve called home for 30 years, John Sheppard, the senior partner of the firm was retiring, (his father and uncle founded the firm in 1924) leaving behind me and his two law partners, both heavily involved in real estate. They only “dabbled” in estate planning.

The senior partner’s long-time legal assistant, Dorothy, who had 20 years of seniority over me, became my assistant. Dorothy might have known more law than I did at the time.

The two of us handled everything – from simple to complex estate planning, probate to trust administrations. It was all on us.

My income increased, but I became miserable.

Could I hire another legal assistant to help me with probate and trust administrations? If I had someone to draft the pleadings and handle the numerous calls from personal representatives, trustees, bankers, and beneficiaries I would surely be happier.

At the time, the expense seemed like it would eat up what little bonus I would take home at the end of the year. I don’t come from wealth. I had no safety net. My wife and I were paying off huge student loan debt, living in a rented condominium with no savings.

After talking it over with my wife, I decided to hire Woody, who worked as a probate assistant for another attorney in town. Miraculously, our revenues increased as I was free from the nonstop calls that plague any estate administration practice.

My confidence grew. I wanted to hire an associate attorney to offload matters that required an attorney, but I wished to delegate. I wanted to concentrate on sharpening my skills and bringing in more complex work.

Looking at it on a spreadsheet, hiring an associate didn’t make any sense. I projected that the associate attorney’s salary would eat into mine, and I would take home less the next year. At least until he got up to speed. My law partners balked. They didn’t want to take home less either.

So I made them a deal. I would bear all of the expense, but I would also reap the profits. They agreed. This began my “firm inside the firm.”

Fast forward to today. My estate planning team includes a partner, a junior partner, an associate attorney, 17 legal assistants, and several outside vendors. Our revenues are several multiples of what they were back in the day, as is my income.

I’m happier. My responsibilities continue to narrow, only working within my unique abilities. I have reached out to form alliances with law firms and complimentary firms such as CPAs, trust companies (I actually helped start a trust company, was a founding shareholder, and sat on the board for 17 years before selling it to a regional bank), and investment advisors.

So can you afford to hire that person you think you need?

Yes. You can’t afford not to.

To your bigger future,

Craig R. Hersch
Florida Bar Board Certified Wills, Trusts & Estates Attorney, CPA
Senior Partner, The Sheppard Law Firm
Founder, The Freedom Practice®
PS – I hope to see you at Practice Xcelerator October 27-28 in Captiva Island Florida where you’ll interact with dozens of other attorneys from around the country facing these very same issues. You’ll be amazed at what comes from these two days. Learn more here.

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